As a young child, we had a few female college business students live with us.  Each lived rent free in our walk-out basement — owing only babysitting during many cocktail parties in the early ’60s.  Years later, as I questioned why my parents were so helpful to those students, my father told me about one of the turning points of his life.

My father’s father was a stock broker through the Great Depression in Lexington, Kentucky.  They had enough, but not nearly as much as his clients and circle of friends.  In 1935 my father graduated high school at the age of 16 and worked for a year at the brokerage firm.  Dad’s job involved “marking the board” — taking a translucent tape, coated with purple ink, off the Trans-Lux machine, and using chalk to write the latest stock prices on the large, 6 x 18 ft. slate board.  (It took him 6 months to remove all the purple ink stain from his fingers.)

One day, a distant relative named W. Arnold Hanger, who would become president of Mason & Hanger Co., (America’s oldest architectural and engineering firm) asked, “Who’s that industrious young man writing prices on the chalkboard?”  My grandfather said, “That’s my son.”  Hanger said, “He ought to be going to college.”  My grandfather said, “No, he ought to be on that ladder, writing stock prices on that board.”  

With permission, Mr. Hanger met with my father and offered to lend interest free the money he’d need if he attended his alma mater — the Wharton School of Business at Penn.  After tests, discussions, and correspondence, Hanger wrote out six $500 notes, to pay for college expenses and the train rides to Philadelphia.

At Wharton, dad had campus jobs much of the time, and was awarded a 50% academic scholarship the last 2 years.  Within 3 years of graduation, dad paid off the $3000 he owed Arnold Hanger.  Dad would say, “His generosity gave me both a superior education and an example of a generous, yet practical, spirit which I have valued always.” 

Spiderman/Peter Parker said, “With great power comes great responsibility.”  Jesus said “To whom much is given, much will be required.”   Dad used his power and the gifts given to him to further the education of so many other people as he invested most of his wealth in charitable causes.

What gifts of faith, time, talent, treasure, have you been given?  What is a major turning point in your life?  Who played a part in that turning point?  How do you share and invest your gifts to improve this world?

5 thoughts on “Payback

  1. I love the illustration and the questions. I will enjoy thinking of the people on my path who made a difference. Thanks, Wally.

  2. I have housed a few seminary students and friends over the past years. They have two bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs and we share the kitchen and den.

    Most only stay one semester or 3-5 months. I know my mom would be proud that I opened part of my home for others who needed a place to land.

  3. We have a responsibility to share our gifts. Opening our home to others has been an incredible gift for us.

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